My dog goes crazy at other dogs!
(Q) I have a Jack Russell Terrier. Every time I take him out for a walk, he goes crazy at other dogs. If he didn’t have his muzzle on, he would probably bite them. I have tried squirting him with water and shaking a tin full of stones but nothing seems to work.
(A) Trainer Elizabeth Kershaw says: This type of behaviour usually stems from a lack of opportunity to discover the polite way to meet and greet other dogs as a puppy. Many small dogs have this problem because they have been unable to find out for themselves that large size alone need not be terrifying.
Because the probable cause of the behaviour was originally fear, it is unlikely to be controlled using the aversive techniques you have tried. Your dog has discovered that lunging and barking usually makes the other dogs go away — it has become an important coping strategy.
You will need to find your JRT’s ‘fail safe’ distance where he can see other dogs but not react to them. Every time he glances calmly at another dog you food reward him, until, on seeing another dog, he glances at you ready for his reward. At that point you can move five yards closer and repeat.
Along with this you need to find a local behavioural trainer who can help by organising for you to meet with some friendly dogs so that you can practise parallel walking, circling, and brief meetings. The idea is to help your dog to understand that another dog is not necessarily a threat.